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Ape Apps help Orangutans talk to people

Fondleslabs fold under simian swipes

Apple iPad 2

Orangutans at Miami Zoo are using iPads to communicate with humans.

Associated Press reports that half a dozen of the endangered apes are using iPads, after being offered them as part of a mental stimulation exercise that uses Apps developed for autistic humans. The apps display pictures of various objects that trainers name, prompting Orangutans to press the picture on an iPad’s screen.

The apes’ use of the iPads is a useful stimulant because the creatures are sufficiently intelligent that captivity bores them. Trainers also report that Orangutans are using the devices to indicate body parts that need medical attention.

Trainers hold the fondleslab throughout the procedure, as Orangutans would otherwise crush the iPad, either because they don’t realise their own strength or out of curiosity to see what’s inside.

Miami’s younger Orangutans apparently show more interest in the devices than their parents, perhaps showing that digital natives can even be found in in the animal kingdom.

Fox News has footage of the Orangutans in action.

A group called Orangutan Outreach is also looking into iPads as a way to stage videoconferences between Orang-utans when family members are relocated to other zoos. ®

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